President Muhammadu Buhari is billed to present the 2019 budget of N8.7 trillion before a joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday amid threat of a boycott by members of the House of Representatives.
The president’s request for a Wednesday date was made in a letter read on the floor of the House of Representatives by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
Reacting, however, some members said the remark by Minister of Budget, Udo Udoma, reported by a section of the media yesterday, was derogatory of the National Assembly.
The minister was quoted to have said the legislators were delaying the presentation of the budget.
There has been frosty relations between the executive and the legislature in the last couple of months.
Citing Order 6, Rule 14 of the House Standing Orders, Abubakar Adamu (APC, Niger) requested that the lawmakers demand immediate, unreserved and public apology from Udoma or else the president would not be received at the National Assembly on Wednesday.
He said: “The Minister of Budget and National Planning lied in order to portray the National Assembly as an irresponsible institution.
“We are not irresponsible people Mr. Speaker, contrary to the Minister’s portrayal.
“We hereby demand total, unreserved public apology or the President will meet an empty House when he comes to present the budget,” Adamu said.
Other lawmakers supported Adamu’s position, including Rotimi Agunsoye (APC, Lagos) who moved that the House should summon Udo Udoma.
Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) also maintained that the Minister lied, and thus requested a formal, public apology from him.
“It is no longer a hidden fact that the executive arm of government has always portrayed us as thieves.
“Anywhere we go, people say look at thieves coming, as if we are the ones responsible for delaying the budget or even causing Nigeria’s problems.”
All efforts by Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) to pacify the lawmakers were greeted with shouts of “No, No, No.”
Buhari’s letter was not read on the floor of Senate yesterday. The Senate plenary was presided over by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu as Saraki was away.
When contacted, Yusuf Olaniyonu, the spokesman of Senate President Bukola Saraki, said he did not know if the letter got to the Senate.
He said, however, that each time such letter got to the Senate, it would not take more than one day to be read on the floor.
A former Senate Leader, Sen Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno) told Daily Trust via telephone that he believed his colleagues at the Senate would welcome the president on Wednesday.
“My position is that we’ll be ready to welcome the president. We’ll convince our colleagues that the issue of national budget is not something to play with.
“We’re ready to receive the budget from Mr President, and we’ll start working on it immediately after Christmas. I believe this will be the position of majority of senators regardless of the party,” he said.
Members of the National Assembly are expected to proceed on their Christmas and New Year break between December19 and 20.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on October 24 approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for the 2019 -2021 to provide template for the 2019 budget.
The session, presided over by President Buhari, approved a budget estimate of N8.73tr for the 2019 budget, N400bn lower than that of this year.
The price of crude oil per barrel was pegged at $60, exchange rate at $305 and daily crude oil production was put at 2.3m by the FEC. However, the federal legislature is yet to approve MTEF/FSP.
Daily Trust reports that the presentation of the 2019 budget on December 19 this year would come more than one month late compared to this year’s budget, which was presented on November 7, 2017.
For the past nine years (2010-2018), the earliest period that the Executive arm presented the annual budget proposal before the National Assembly was on October 10, 2012, when former president, Goodluck Jonathan, laid the 2013 proposal. It was signed into law on February 26, 2013.
However, three years before then, Jonathan had presented the 2010 budget proposal on December 2, 2009, which was signed into law on April 22, 2011.
The 2011 budget was presented on December 15, 2010 and signed on May 27, 2011.
Jonathan also presented the 2012 budget proposal to the National Assembly on December 13, 2011, and after its passage, he assented to it on April 13, 2012.
As for the 2014 budget, Jonathan presented it before the 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Reps on December 19, 2013 and signed into law May 22, 2014.
That of 2015 was presented on December 17, 2014 and signed into law on May 19, 2015.
President Muhammadu Buhari during his first year in office presented the 2016 budget on December 22, 2015. After its passage, he assented to it on May 6, 2016.
The following year, which was 2016, the president laid before the lawmakers the 2017 budget on December 14 and signed it on June 12, 2017.